Elon Musk sells $5bn in Tesla stock days after Twitter poll

Billionaire offloads around 3% of his holding – though $1.1bn was already in train before he asked Twitter about reducing stake

Elon Musk has sold about $5bn in shares amounting to roughly 3% of his Tesla holdings, the billionaire reported in filings on Wednesday, just days after he polled Twitter users about selling 10% of his stake.

About $4bn worth of the sale – 3.6m shares – could be considered as counting towards his 10% pledge on Twitter. Another $1.1bn worth, amounting to 934,000 shares, was sold under an options arrangement to acquire nearly 2.2m shares that was already in train before the poll.

Shares in the electric vehicle manufacturer make up the vast part of his estimated $281.6bn fortune, according to Forbes.

Musk on Saturday polled Twitter users about selling 10% of his stake, helping to push down Tesla’s share price after a majority said they agreed with the sale.

I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 6, 2021

The stock sank 12% on Tuesday in a multi-day selloff that endangered the company’s position in the $1tn club. It recovered 4.3% on Wednesday.

The options-related sales were set up in September through a trading plan that allows corporate insiders to establish preplanned transactions on a schedule, the filing said. The sales of the option-related shares paid for associated taxes. It was not clear how or whether the trading plan related to Musk’s Twitter poll. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The additional share sales were separate and provide Musk with sizeable reserves of cash, given his wealth is largely tied to his stakes in Tesla and SpaceX.

Musk has more than 20m further stock options that are due to expire in August 2022.

If Musk carried out the 10% stock sale plan, it would be a slight negative near term, said Mark Arnold, chief investment officer at Hyperion Asset Management in Brisbane where Tesla is the top holding in its global fund.

“But the stock is pretty liquid and it’s not a huge percentage of total issued shares, so it shouldn’t have that much of an impact … we’re quite comfortable with the outlook for the business,” he said.

While Tesla has lost close to $150bn in market value this week, retail investors have been net buyers of the stock. Some 58% of Tesla trade orders on Fidelity’s brokerage website on Wednesday were for purchases, rather than sales.

Retail investors made net purchases of $157m on Monday and Tuesday, according to Vanda Research.

Tesla is now up more than 51% in 2021, thanks largely to an October rally that was fuelled by an agreement to sell 100,000 vehicles to rental car company Hertz.

“The company itself is on fire, with strong results,” said Tim Ghriskey, a senior portfolio strategist at New York-based investment management firm Ingalls and Snyder.

Guardian staff and agencies

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